DEC Matong Primary School is at the crossroads of Bonfi and Matong villages from where it draws students. The school was started by Abu Mansaray, who is now the member of parliament representing the constituency. Then, the District Education Council came on board, took charge of the school, and over the years has made improvements in the area of teacher certifications and payment of salaries. The school began with just a handful of students, growing over time to the current population of 291 students today.
Despite all of this progress, there is no functional water point at the school. Construction for a well at the school began in 2012, but it was never finished.
The nearest available water for the school is at Bonfi Village, which is more than two miles away. Since Bonfi is closer than Matong, the students living there must bring water to the school each day. Every day the children take the long walk to the village to fetch water. At the end of every school day, they go home with their empty containers that are brought back with water the following school day.
Mohamed Lamin Sesay became the school's headteacher shortly after the well project at the school was abandoned. He is frustrated by the inability of the school to provide water to the students.
"Words cannot begin to show what I have been feeling in my heart. I have been promised help so many times that I had finally given up because I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. It is very dangerous, highly unethical, and against the law to send children to a school without a safe water supply," he said.
It has become part of their school curriculum for students to volunteer to carry water to the school every day. Walking two miles with a bucket of water on the head takes a lot out of anyone, especially children. A common statement by students is "an empty bag cannot stand." They mean that with hours of work and no food in their stomachs, they are less likely to pay attention and more likely to fall asleep in class.
The well in Bonfi becomes dry a few months each year, which poses a problem for the students. Those dry months happen to be during the school year. So, the students in Bonfi have to turn to other water sources - in some cases, open scoop holes contaminated with waterborne diseases.
Here’s what we’re going to do about it:
The well marked for this overhaul is dry for a few months every year and needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the community year-round. The pump will be removed, and a hand auger will be lowered inside and powered by a drill team. This hand auger will allow the team to drill several meters deeper to hit a sufficient water column to ensure the well supplies water throughout all seasons.
As the team drills, casing will be installed, transforming the bottom of this hand-dug well into a borehole. PVC piping will connect this lower system directly to the pump, a construction that we know will also improve the quality of water.
Once this plan is implemented, everyone within the community will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity, even through the dry months.
Hygiene and Sanitation Training
There will be hygiene and sanitation training sessions offered for three days in a row.
"The hygiene and sanitation in this community has been steadily improving even though we have a long ways to go," said Mammy Kamara.
After our visit, the hygiene and sanitation trainer decided it would be best to teach community members how to build a tippy tap (a hand-washing station built with a jerrycan, string, and sticks). They will use these tippy taps for handwashing demonstrations, and will also teach about other tools like dish racks and the importance of properly penning in animals.
This training will also strengthen the water user committee that manages and maintains this well. They enforce proper behavior and report to us whenever they need our help solving a serious problem, like a pump breakdown.